Unicoi Lake

Lineman Uses Adz, Patience for Wood Art

Posted: June 1, 2019

Habersham EMC’s Stephen Thomas insists he’s not an artist. But the dozens of works in his house, on the lawn and in his backyard workshop tell the talent of the lineman.

“When I first saw wooden bowls,” says Thomas, “I thought they were pretty cool.” Thomas uses many tools while crafting a bowl, from a chainsaw to an old-fashioned adz. An ancient tool similar to an ax, an adz has an arched blade at an angle to the handle. This one was a gift from his father-in-law, who found the old tool and thought it suited Thomas. The adz works well, but it takes hours in Thomas’ hands to shape a piece of wood into a bowl.

HEMC lineman Stephen Thomas shows some of the handmade bowls he’s created, with the help of an adz.
Thomas picks up a piece of wood he is saving to turn into “two or three bowls.”

“It’s not talent,” says Thomas. “It’s more patience than anything.”

Thomas says he reads craft books and watches online videos for ideas.

A pile of wood shavings next to the workshop tells the story. There’s no sawdust, but thousands of small strips of wood—each one cut by Thomas, one at a time, as he turns wood into art.

hand holding strips of wood
Thousands of small strips of wood are testament to the patience to scrape the wood into curved shapes.

Raw wood in several shapes and sizes fits into crannies and against walls in his workshop—a cherry burl that Thomas sees as two bowls in his mind’s eye; honey locust lumber; a box elder maple branch; a pale length of cedar; walnut; and spalted maple pieces. There are other works of art Thomas has crafted—cups, chairs and stools. And he repairs cane chairs with the basket- weave seats.

For bowls, Thomas starts with a chainsaw to get the basic shape, then uses an angle grinder with chainsaw teeth followed by a smaller-toothed grinder for the smooth interior. Some of the bowls show the imprint of the adz, with small shallow scallops in the wood surface.

Thomas says he’s considered selling some of his wares, but he often gives them away to friends, HEMC co-workers and family.

“I just like doing this,” he says. “It’s fun for me.”